In the 1500s, Spaniards introduced domesticated turkeys from the Americas to the world. In other countries, the bird was valued for its exotic appearance as well as its tasty meat. Here, turkeys would come to represent the American Thanksgiving.

This ceramic tureen in the form of a turkey was created in France in the mid-1700s at the Strasbourg factory. (Others were made in Germany and elsewhere.) Though it is tempting to assume it was intended specifically for serving a stew or soup made from turkey, it probably was used to contain a range of tempting hot foods.

Tureens in naturalistic animal and vegetable shapes were popular elements of fashionable table settings. Such a tureen would have been at home on a table with dishes shaped like cabbages or cauliflowers and dinner plates painted with designs inspired by nature. In some cases, moss, potted plants, or flowers helped to complete the theatrical quality of the dinner display.

Winterthur curator Leslie Grigsby has long embraced the idea of bringing nature to her dinner table. For special meals, she often creates a centerpiece by arranging her favorite ceramic animal figures among greenery and fall leaves gathered from outside her home.

Leslie B. Grigsby, senior curator of ceramics and glass

Ceramic turkey tureen, Strasbourg factory, France, 1750-1760

1996.0004.269 A, B